The Powerless Lawprof – What CAN They Do?

About a year after graduation, I stopped by my alma mater to visit one of my favorite lawprofs. He was the stereotypical lawprof that has been vilified lately – he had little practice experience and teaches only 2-3 days per week, including one of those pointless “law and” seminars. On occasion, he publishes some obscure, worthless piece of shit.

I told him that I was in danger of being laid off and needed assistance finding a different job. He told me that he didn’t know anyone who was hiring but would keep me in mind if something came up. He suggested that I talk to the school’s career center to see if any open positions were available.

At that point, I lost it. I told him I was absolutely frustrated with the legal system and how it fucks over young lawyers. I was sick of trolling through craigslist,, Symplicity for the few open positions available. I was sick of “networking” with other attorneys at bullshit bar functions which I had to pay for. I was sick of “building my network” – usually with “financial planners”, “vice presidents”, “consultants” and other people who were salesmen in disguise. I was sick of going to various pro bono activities where I was doing nothing more than commiserating with other young, unemployed attorneys.

The lawprof gave me a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. He said, “I’m sorry, but it’s been like this for a while. The job market for lawyers have been bad for a long time. But people succeed eventually, you just have to hang in there. Also, I’m just a lawprof. I’m only here to teach.” 

He was right.

As much as I hate the system they work for, I do not hate most law professors for doing their jobs – teaching. I don’t expect lawprofs to find jobs for their students. I don’t expect them to write Nobel prize winning literature on a regular basis. I don’t even expect them to write good practice manuals (although that would be nice) because…they DON’T practice.

But I do hate most lawprofs for not speaking out about the law school crisis/scam/clusterfuck. I hate them for saying and doing nothing as new law schools are opening up. While I do not expect them to be as outspoken as Paul Campos, I’m sure most of them understand that there is a problem when a significant number of law school graduates are not getting jobs.

Most lawprofs (other than a delusional few) know this but say nothing. Junior profs are afraid that speaking out will adversely affect their chances of getting tenure. Senior profs are either too institutionalized and don’t want to rock the boat or are jaded – dismissing the situation as “the student’s problem”. Others think that we are just venting and will go away when the economy improves.

But what CAN lawprofs do? Individually, most are just powerless employees. They might say a few things here and there but that’s about it. The thing is that lawprofs as a group see themselves as a congenial collective, isolated from real world problems. Only a select few can enter the tenured ranks and once you’re in, you’re set. So there is no incentive for most lawprofs to do anything to change the status quo.

I would love to be proven wrong on this point by seeing some lawprofs show fortitude. And with outside speculation that some law schools may close this coming decade, we may start seeing the collapse of the collective as law schools enter survival mode.


One thought on “The Powerless Lawprof – What CAN They Do?

  1. djean102

    Too bad you didn’t train to be an electrician or plumber. But you didn’t want to get your hands dirty or work hard. There has been a glut of lawyers for years and years, lured in by the money to be made if you’re successful. That means 90 hour a week schedules, no time off for a personal life, and years of low wages in order to make partner or associate. At least the Prof has a job.


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